The hypocrisy of Richard Graham last week was breathtaking, when he spoke in Parliament on Thursday against Tory cuts to further education funding – cuts that he himself voted for.
Further education (FE) has been the victim of the sharpest cuts in the education sector since 2010. The 2010 Spending Review led to a real terms cut in funding of 14%. The 2015 Spending Review led to a funding freeze until 2019/20, another real terms cut.
Gloucester’s MP Richard Graham voted for all these cuts.
Yet on Thursday, even Richard was calling for change. This is what he said in Parliament:
“I absolutely agree with my right hon. Friend about the importance of vocational education. Does she agree with me that while we have had terrific success in driving up the number of people in our constituents who are taking on apprenticeships, the bulk of this work is being done through further education colleges, which since 2010 have in effect had two cuts and a freeze? The recent increases to their teachers’ pay and pensions are not covered by the Treasury; they have to meet those costs themselves. Does she agree that it would be very helpful if the Minister addressed this issue, which I believe is one of underfunding in our further education colleges?”
I agree – Tory cuts and freezes to further education have led to chronic unsustainable under-funding of this crucial public service, and this does need to be addressed urgently.
But can we rely on Tories like Richard to make the changes we need?
FE colleges are the main providers for adult and vocational education. Gloucestershire College in particular does a fantastic job helping people to develop skills and improve their life prospects.
The Conservatives pay lip service to the importance of high-quality training, while they’ve ruthlessly cut funding for FE colleges and reduced entitlements for adult learners. This has led to diminishing numbers of courses and students and plunged the sector into crisis.
Richard Graham has himself voted for the budget cuts that have damaged our further education colleges. So it’s all very well saying we need more funding now FE has been plunged into crisis, but why wasn’t he speaking up when his government was implementing these cuts?
Labour would reverse these cuts.
And we would introduce free, lifelong education in Further Education (FE) colleges, enabling everyone to upskill or retrain at any point in life.